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2 Dead, over 700 Ill in Food Poisoning at Iraqi Refugee Camp | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Displaced Iraqis receive aid food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at al-Khazer camp for the internally displaced, located between Erbil and Mosul, on June 5, 2017. (AFP)

Two people have died from food poisoning in a camp for displaced people from the Iraqi city of Mosul, the country’s Health Ministry announced on Tuesday as Saudi state television accused a Qatari charity of providing the tainted food.

People started vomiting and some fainted after eating an iftar meal, breaking the Muslim Ramadan fast, said lawmaker Zahed Khatoun, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s committee for displaced people.

The camp in al-Khazer on the road linking Mosul and Erbil houses people displaced by an offensive to dislodge ISIS extremists from Mosul. Over 700 people fell ill from the meal.

An Iraqi lawmaker who visited the camp and Saudi state television accused a charity from Qatar of providing the food.

Adila Hamoud, the Iraqi minister, told The Associated Press in Baghdad that 752 people became ill after a meal the previous evening at the Hassan Sham U2 camp, located about 20 kilometers (13 miles) east of Mosul.

The food was provided by a non-governmental organization. Hamoud said a woman and a girl died while at least 300 people remain in critical condition.

She would not speculate whether the poisoning might have been intentional.

A formal investigation was launched into the incident by authorities, said lawmaker Raad al-Dahlaki, who chairs the parliament’s immigration and displacement committee. Al-Dahlaki, who visited the camp overnight, said the meal contained rice, a bean sauce, meat, yogurt and water. He put the number of sickened people at 850.

Al-Dahlaki said the meals were distributed by a Qatari charity known as RAF. He added that Iraqi officials were to meet those from the organization later on Tuesday. The Doha-based charity did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Qatar is engulfed in a major diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and several other Arab and Muslim nations over its support of terrorism.

On Twitter, Saudi state television also accused RAF of supplying the tainted meals and posted images it said showed the camp’s children “poisoned by the terrorist Qatari RAF organization.”

RAF is the acronym for the Qatar-based Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani Foundation for Humanitarian Services, a charity that collects donations to do aid work around the world, including providing meals to needy families during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

RAF is also among 12 organizations and 59 people put on what Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini officials described as a list of terror entities and individuals on Friday.

The Hassan Sham U2 camp houses thousands who have fled their homes in and around Mosul after a US-backed Iraqi offensive was launched to dislodge ISIS militants from the city last October. According to the UN refugee agency, it is home to 6,235 people.